Mother – 5 Questions for Film Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen

Image Still from the short film, Mother - Interview with director Rodrigo Sorogoyen

Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at the 2019 Academy Awards.

1. What were the logistics of shooting this film in a single take?

We approached it with a lot of rehearsal time for the actors over a week, rehearsing the only scene and the only shot of the short film, all day, every day, and then during the shoot itself, we went for three days. One of the mise en scene on the set with the crew but no technical equipment.  The second day of rehearsals with the equipment, what is known as a camera rehearsal, as many times as we could in the day, and the third time, the shooting day, several times over and over.


2. What does the rehearsal process look like for a project like this?

Everything is based on the rehearsals. For such a complicated shot, over such a long period of time, so much so that it basically the entirety of the short, 95% of the story, you have to rehearse a great deal, there is no room for improvisation. Improvisation can come from a line or a word, from something on the spur of the moment which works better, but you can’t improvise much. Everything has to be extremely well choreographed. It is during the rehearsals that you can find new material, fresh reactions, new camera movements so that when the shooting begins, everything is really as tied down as it can be.


3. What did you look for when casting for this film?

Obviously, actors capable of doing many things, there are actors for all tastes, but in my humble opinion, a director has to know how to choose his actors well for each character, and also for each project. There are actors who will play the same character much better or much worse, depending on how you tell the story. It’s not the same thing to tell the story with long shots as it is to tell it with shots up close.

There are actors who are more technical, and others who are more intuitive, there are millions of factors to bear in mind. In the case of Mother, once I knew it was going to be a sequence shot, I needed to have actresses who knew how to bear up and also to make the most of such a long shot and all the rehearsals. In my humble opinion, I don’t think we got it wrong in our choice of actors, the results are spectacular.


4. What is this story to you? Why do you think it's worth telling?

The first layer of the story is what grabs your attention, which is the emotional power the film has because everybody can identify with a set-up in which a loved one is in a horrible situation, lost and really helpless. It might not be as much a feature film as a pill which shakes you up for twenty minutes. But I was looking for something more, not just that, there is the truth, and I think I found it in the two mothers because the story could have been told with just the young mother at one end of the phone. What’s more, the story is inspired by a real-life event, though it never took on the tragic tone of the short film, something similar happened to a girl-friend of mine who was on her own. But I stuck in another character to talk about precisely the differences in upbringing, the differences in their way of relating, and also the quarreling which can exist between two mothers in a terrifying situation, and how each of them would try to solve it in their own way. That is the second layer I tried to bring to it.


5. When did you know you wanted to be a director?

I don’t think there is a specific moment, I always had a close relationship with the cinema because I used to go a lot with my father when I was little. Then, on my mother’s side, there is a tradition because my grandfather was a director, although I didn’t ever co-exist with him. Obviously, in the way you are brought up, there is some kind of relationship with the cinema. It was something very gradual, little by little, doing something which I liked, making short films, meeting people from the profession, and watching movies.